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Mind Mapping, Mindmaps and Mind Maps: Tutorials, Information and How-tos

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Mind mapping is a revolutionary tool used for creating, thinking, organizing, note taking and brainstorming.

The modern iteration of mind mapping is claimed to have been created by Tony Buzan – but who really knows. If anything, credit definitely goes to Tony for popularizing the method and bringing it to the masses.

Here at Asian Efficiency, we like to think of ourselves as avid users of mindmapping, rather than “certified experts”. We use mind mapping for all sorts of things in our daily lives, and we want to share some of that with you.

Quick note: in Commonwealth countries, mind maps are often referred to as spidergrams or spidergraphs. They are also knows as concept maps or concept mapping in other parts of the world.

What is Mind Mapping?

Mind Mapping Central Idea

Central Idea of a Mindmap

All mind mapping begins with a central idea in the middle of your map. Like this:

Mind Mapping Simple Mindmap

A simple mindmap of fruits.

You then build branches or nodes around the mindmap, with the first layer being one hierarchical layer of thought down. Further layers and subsequent branches are then further levels down in logical thought. For example:

Mind Mapping Callout

A callout describing a type of apple.

Mind maps also often include callouts, which provide “meta” commentary on a branch or idea – these comments are belong “across” in the hierarchy of thought, rather than above or below.

Relationships within mindmaps show how concept links together:

Mind Mapping Relationship

Relating two different fruits.

There is a lot of talk about mind mapping activating “the whole brain” or “both hemispheres” or whatnot. In general, we like to take the practical approach here at Asian Efficiency: does it help us get things done better and more efficiently? If yes, then we’re all for it.

If you are interested in how mind mapping helps you to become more effective, we share a lot of thoughts on mind mapping alongside other productivity and time management topics in our exclusive newsletter. We would love to share our content with you that would help you become more organized and effective. You can sign up below and we will start sending you some of our (great) content right away!

Getting Started with Mind Mapping

Getting started with mindmapping begins with choosing how you’re going to draw the mind map. You can use pen and paper to keep things simple, but we much prefer a quality mind mapping application, such as Mindjet MindManager for Mac or Mindjet MindManager for Windows.

Here are the articles that we have written about the different aspects of mind mapping:

Types of Mind Maps

There are many different types of mind maps. Here are the more common ones that we use at Asian Efficiency.

The Straight Mind Map

Mind Mapping Straight Mindmap

A straight mindmap about vegetables.

This is a mindmap with one central idea, and hierarchical nodes.

The Meta Mind Map

Mind Mapping Meta Mindmap

A mindmap showing meta information.

This is like a straight mindmap (one central idea, hierarchical nodes), but also includes callouts and highlighted nodes to provide additional commentary and information. When we do work for consulting clients, these are the mindmaps that we use the most often.

Multi-Idea Mind Maps

This type of mind map contains multiple central ideas, and shows the relationship between all the central ideas and their hierarchical nodes. A good example of this type of mind map are mind maps for designed business or computer systems.

Mind Mapping Multinode Mindmap

A multinode/multi-idea mindmap about information systems.

These kind of mind maps tend to be hard to generate with Mindjet MindManager, and we prefer to use MindNode for these.

Common Uses of Mind Maps

Mind mapping has a lot of different uses – much more than most people think are possible. You can use mindmapping for:

  • Brainstorming. Mindmaps are great for brainstorming project ideas, or coming up with solutions for business problems (the problem being the central node).
  • Note Taking. We use mind maps to take notes for books, lectures or seminars. The advantage of a mind map is that you get to sort the ideas in a way that makes sense to you, rather than in the linear form presented by the source material.
  • Organizing and Reorganizing. Mindmaps work equally well for organizing your life – just see what we’ve done with Agile Results and Mind Maps. You can also take existing information, and reorganize it within a mindmap, to create new relationships between ideas and concepts.
  • Creating. All the articles on Asian Efficiency (including this one) begin life as mindmaps.

The uses for mind mapping are pretty much endless – the tools available to us are pretty much open-ended and infinite in capacity!

Mind Mapping Tools and Applications

The simplest way to mindmap is to use pen and paper. We still occasionally sketch simple mindmaps into a Moleskine Notebook.

When it comes to Apps and Software, we prefer Mindjet MindManager for daily use. It’s fast, it’s stable, it has a real company with real support behind it (not just a lone developer), and it also has accompanying iOS applications.

Check out Mindjet MindManager here.

A great alternative to MindManager is MindNode, which is useful for multi-idea mind maps. It’s not as slick as MindManager, but it still works quite well.

We’re making it a point to re-review a lot of mind mapping software, and we’ll let you know more about others as we take a look at them.

Mind Mapping Resources

Here are some other great places to find out about Mind Mapping:

  • MindJet. A great company that really embraces the use of mindmapping for business and professional use.
  • Sciplore. For those interested in the science behind data organization and mind maps.
  • Efficacy of Mind Maps as a study technique. Interesting study about how motivation plays a significant role in the ability to use mindmaps effectively.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Vince May 29, 2012 at 4:02PM

Any tips on using mind maps for a science lecture? I feel that it goes too deep in levels of details. Some of the webs would go very long, is this necessarily bad?

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Aaron Lynn May 30, 2012 at 10:09PM

If you’re using software (which you should be!) I don’t think it’s a problem. You can also expand/collapse nodes as you need to, or break it out into separate mind maps after the lecture.

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Greg June 26, 2012 at 12:49AM

So I’ve created huge mind maps in freemind for studying concurrency, i would like to browse them easily from time to time to refresh my memory and i find that theres no easy way to browse them aside from printing them out on huge sheets of paper. What way do you traditionally view your mind maps? Is it portable?

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Brian July 25, 2012 at 3:14AM

I have been an avid mind mapper for over twenty years. I have used Mind Manager predominantly on both my Macs and Windows PC laptops. My opinion is the Mind Manager 2012 for Windows is pretty great. It has a number of features including Gantt charts that increases its capabilities into a great simple project management tool. I have found it much faster to use than OmniPlan. The Windows version also has extensive integration with Outlook and One Note. The Mind Manager for Mac has a way to go to catch up. It has been a bit rough moving off my Mac to get work done but the name of the game is being productive and I have reduced a great deal of friction in my work flows.

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Heidi August 10, 2012 at 6:20PM

On the iPad it’s hard to beat iThoughtsHD. I’ve been using it since it first came out. It plays nice with quite a few mindmap programs on the Mac and PC, too.

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Thanh Pham August 13, 2012 at 1:38AM

Yeah I love that app too. It’s great and works with MindManager mindmaps too.

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James Harrison August 8, 2013 at 7:16AM

IThoughts gets my vote – especially as it exports nicely into Word (and more), looks good and is packed with features.

It also talks to Freemind beautifully and vice versa.

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Andy July 29, 2014 at 10:01PM

I use iThoughts on both iPad and my Mac. I love it. And yes, I also use it in conjunction with OmniFocus 2.

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Azeema March 1, 2013 at 2:18PM

This is great , thanks for all the information you put out ! I am thinking about getting OmniFocus after my trial period along with your Premium Posts. I was thrilled to see that you recommend Mind Jet . I see that they both are unique in what they offer, although there may be similarities. For me they both serve different requirements…and are must haves .. Mind mapping for project/ service creation , Omni Focus for both Home and business..in short .. please inform .. my concern is not to double up on the same tool.. as I understand it so far you cant really do extensive mind mapping on Omni Focus … thanks !!

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Thanh Pham March 1, 2013 at 2:41PM

That’s right – they are two completely different tools. You can’t do any mindmapping in OmniFocus so there isn’t much overlap – the two programs complement each other really well.

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Steffen February 4, 2014 at 9:15AM

great! up until now i never got really into mindmaps. now i really want to try them out.

in the past i used only lists/sublists for the thinking process or for writing things down. i wonder what the difference is when i would use mindmaps there instead. in this article you gave me the link that could answer this question already. thanks for that.

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Kevin August 31, 2014 at 12:22AM

I’ve noticed you mention using moleskin notebooks as a way to create mind maps. My question is how can you fit a mind map in that small book and wouldn’t it be more convenient to use a bigger notebook, say a composition notebook, instead?

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